Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dunes in a Noachis Terra Crater

Sand dunes on Mars are studied for many reasons. Recent investigations have focused on dune and ripples movement.

In this observation, we look at dunes within a crater in Noachis Terra. Zooming in to one of these areas (and here is the context image) we see the edges of two dunes separated by a field of ripples and rocks. We can compare this area to another image taken two Mars years ago. In the older image, there are many dark wispy features that cover the dunes. These are dust devil tracks, which formed when vortices removed a thin layer of dust off the surface, revealing a darker substrate.

In addition, there are dark sand streaks extending westward from the eastern dune. Blinking between these images shows that virtually all traces of the dust devil tracks and dark streaks have disappeared in the two Mars years. There is also little evidence for dune or ripple movement (however, these images have not yet been orthorectified for a detailed analysis).

In this region, it is likely that dust is periodically deposited and then removed off the dunes. The presence of dust may shield the dunes and ripples from significant movement, such that the observed changes are but thin layers of dust being removed and minor sand streaks that blow off the dunes.

This is a stereo pair with ESP_030080_1245.

Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Note: The "blink" images, mentioned above, are well worth looking at. Here is the gif file below:

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